Back when I was pregnant with Charlie, I served on the Visual Arts Committee for my church. Our church had a very involved fine arts ministry and services were sprinkled with arts of all kinds–film, music, theater, and even interpretive dance from time to time. It was a pretty wonderful place.
You can imagine that at a church like that, the Visual Arts Committee didn’t take itself lightly–we might discuss and argue over a concept for several hours.
So there we were one weeknight in November, discussing what was supposed to be a quick installation going up through the Christmas season. The director of the committee, a church employee, wanted us to incorporate the lyrics to a song we would be singing. The song was Made to Worship by Chris Tomlin and somehow we were drawn these particular lines:
When you and I embrace surrender,
When you and I choose to believe,
You and I will see,
Who we were meant to be.
We tossed around a ton of ideas and finally someone suggested an image of Mother and Child. I had just found out I was pregnant–hadn’t been to a doctor or anything yet–and so the idea of a mother and child brought up some very concrete ideas for me. Specifically, I was struck by how out of control I felt. A born planner, I suddenly had a life growing inside of me and I was well-aware that it was just doing its thing without any input from me. Amazing, but also frightening.
I had this idea that we should do the mother and child scene with a twist. Instead of looking down, Mary should be looking up. In my mind, that was the ultimate surrender–just looking up at God and trying to figure out what the heck you’re supposed to be doing. I was sure feeling it in those early days of pregnancy–Caffeine or no? cold medicine? What about nail polish? The weight of my decisions was almost paralyzing. I couldn’t even imagine how Mary felt when selected to be the Mother of the Savior. I could barely decide if I wanted to take baths any more.
The committee thought I was a little odd. Tradition prevailed and we had a very classic mother and child image that year.
Many, many months after Charlie was born, as I was struggling to figure out the why of my new life, I found myself turning the words to the Chris Tomlin song over in my mind. Embrace surrender. Don’t just surrender, but embrace it–accept that we never really have control. It’s hard as hell, but I think it’s the only way to do this thing. No amount of wishing on stars is going to change Charlie’s brain. Hoping things were different is a waste of time and energy. This is all I’ve got, so I better get on board.
And so, embracing surrender became my new motto. It’s not always an easy one–I fail at it all the time–but I try my best.
Charlie was probably over a year when I remembered my argument for the upward looking Mary and realized how relevant those ideas were to my current situation. Mary didn’t plan to give birth to the Savior–as far as I can tell, she didn’t even volunteer. She was drafted. Just like me. I was minding my own business when I got selected by fate to be the parent of a special needs child. There’s no handbook for this and figuring out what to do is often a pile of guesswork.
I’ve had to embrace the situation that I’ve been handed. I’ve researched medical equipment and alternative therapy until they were making appearances in my dreams. I’ve ridden air planes to foreign countries when I hate to fly and I hate to travel. I can quickly and easily run through lists of medical conditions I never knew existed. I didn’t choose this life–this life chose me.
At Christmas time I’m reminded of Mary. Of the sacrifices she must of made when she was chosen to be Jesus’s mother. She was probably hoping for an average, normal life, but that’s not what she got. Life is unpredictable. We can fight that or we can accept what we get. That might not be the meaning of Christmas, but I am sure am aware of it this time of year.
For those who celebrate, have a very Merry Christmas.